Congress Moves Forward With Plan To Make Universities Copyright Cops

from the first-ISPs,-then-colleges dept

For a little over a year, there have been stories about how the entertainment industry has been pressuring Congress to make universities responsible for stopping copyright infringement on their network. This got a lot of attention late last year when Congress tried to tie such a mandate to a provision granting financial aid to students. In other words, the threat was that if universities didn’t act to stop file sharing, their students wouldn’t be eligible for financial aid. This got plenty of attention, and the bill never passed. The most interesting part of it, though, was that much of the reasoning for the bill was driven by MPAA claims that 44% of all illegal file sharing took place on college campuses.

There was just one problem with that: the number was completely wrong. Earlier this year, the MPAA admitted that it had made a small mistake, and the number was actually something like 15% (and even that could be argued).

You might think that would allow our Congressional representatives to focus their attention on something a bit more important — but with super low approval ratings, the people they actually represent matter a lot less than their biggest campaign donors. So, of course, the bill to turn universities into copyright cops is back once again. It is somewhat toned down, but will still require universities to basically be the mouthpieces of the entertainment industry, repeating their propaganda and ignoring that the problem is the industry’s obsolete business models rather than any legal issue.

However, as you read William Patry’s post on this above, you see that the MPAA is also positioning the legislative history on the law so that next year or so, they’ll be able to come back and insist on mandatory filters at universities. Basically, it looks like the MPAA tried to bite off too big of a chunk when it pushed for this law last year, so this year, it’s taking half a bite, but getting everything ready to get the rest of what it wants next year.

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Companies: mpaa

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Comments on “Congress Moves Forward With Plan To Make Universities Copyright Cops”

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Justin says:

MPAA business model

I don’t understand how the MPAA’s busines model is obsolete like everyboday says. There model is to sign an artist, pay him little to nothing and sell you a hard copy of the music in a store. It is maybe not as effective as it once was but it is not obsolete. People still go to Target, Walmart and music stores to buy CDs. If it were obsolete their would be a pile of inventory sitting at the retail stores and sale signs everywhere to get rid of it. Granted it is not how many people want to use their product but that doesn’t make a model obsolete.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: MPAA business model

You just answered your own question there. let’s go through that step by step:

“There model is to sign an artist”

Firstly, what does a label have to offer an artist by signing them? Traditionally the answer to that question would be recording facilities, promotional muscle, expert advice and access to professional songwriters/producers.

In today’s market, it’s possible to get professional-sounding results from a laptop. Promotion can be leveraged as much by canny amateurs or independents (e.g. Girl talk, Arctic Monkeys, etc.) online as much as through traditional channels. the pros can be hired for a few grand to polish existing recordings rather than the costly over-seeing from scratch.

“pay him little to nothing”

Aha. Strike one. Whereas the things I listed above can be very attractive to the new artist, this isn’t. Traditionally, labels offered a large advance combined with a contract that made it virtually impossible to recoup that advance in the short-term. Contracts also often signed all the rights to the recordings over to the label, leaving merchandise and live performances as the main way to make money for the artist.

“sell you a hard copy of the music in a store.”

…and strike two. Hard copies are no longer a lucrative market. They’ll be a round for a while but digital recordings, merchandise and live performances are the money-makers now. Major labels have been woefully inadequate at recognising the new digital market, while demanding a cut of merchandising and live performances – traditionally the way bands made most of their money.

“People still go to Target, Walmart and music stores to buy CDs. “

Large retailers like Wal Mart sell small selections of music as loss leaders. That is, they probably won’t stock you unless you’ve already hit the Billboard charts, and they sell CDs at below cost. They’ve helped shut down a lot of independent stores because of this, and if they decide to cut back or remove their music selections, nobody’s left to take up the slack. 10 years ago, Tower Records was a major player in the industry. Now they don’t exist, precisely because the market’s moved this way.

…and that’s strike three. New artists are left with a choice. Go with a major label, who will sign you to a binding contract that can be broken at any time by the label, and has every term heavily biased towards making them a profit over and above you. That will leave them without ownership of their own music should they ever leave, and possibly heavily in debt.

Or they can go independent, which gives them a lower chance of mainstream success but much more control if they can master their own destiny. As long as artists are actually interested in the music rather than trying to be the next Britney or American Idol, it’s quite possible to make a decent living from music without a label.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is BS, since when does an ACADEMIC institution have to bare the burden of playing “copyright cops” they already have enough problems to deal with. The very people that teach the constitution have to be two faced.
GROW UP **AA! You already have more money then you’ll ever know what to do with. Now you have to attack the youth of tomorrow just cause you don’t want to go back to school and learn a better business model.
Its just like the **AA to have someone else to do their foot work, lazy !@#$%&! Go back to school and learn business and business ETHICS!
These are the parents of tomorrows kids and they’re just going to get sick of it and your way outdated business model will just get worse.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Re the Patry blog cite, I long ago ceased to use the site as a valuable resource for copyright law; not because Patry is weak on the law, but because it seems to have turned into a political “soap box”.

Hmm. That’s odd. But when it comes to other “soap box” writings, such as those on Patently-O, those are just fine?

Why is the soap box only okay when it sides with you?

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

After finding my comments were no longer being accepted for publication, I submitted an anonymous and innocuous comment that Patry pleasantly replied to. When I later submitted a comment that revealed my authorship, it did not get published, and moreover, he unpublished my anonymous comment and his reply. This convinced me that he had ceased accepting my comments for publication not based upon their content, but based upon the identity of their author. I e-mailed him in case I could find out his reasons, but had no reply.

I am still mystified by this strange behaviour (unless simply intended to persuade me not to comment). It may nevertheless shed light otherwise.

K_Dog says:

Not my financial aid buddy

Good thing Congress turned down that bill that would remove a college’s financial aid if they didn’t become copyright cops. You have no idea what kinds of troubles would erupt from this, riots, who knows. That was stupid to even consider an option like that. A kid not being able to go to college because of some stupid law passed by an organization who doesn’t give a damn about you, while they’re making millions of dollars. They had the privilege of going to college, and I bet that most of them needed as much financial aid as possible.

I’ll be going to either Georgia Tech or NC State in ’09, anybody care to inform me on their network monitoring software, or how draconian they’ve become in the last year or so.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Where is the anti-regulatory crowd????

The topic of network neutrality heated up just recently with regards to Comcast. There have been the usual anti-regulatory posts claiming that we need an unregulated internet. Ironically, when it comes to Congress considering the passage of industry sponsored regulations, such as the “Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008,” there appears to be an amazing silence. Does this silence imply an implicit support of regulation despite public prostrations that regulation is bad? Theoretically, regulation is regulation and should be opposed no matter what its source. I hope that I am wrong.

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